Is This the Golden Age of Veterinary Medicine?
As this new year begins and many of us are brought together by another NAVC VMX conference, we can allow ourselves thoughts of where we are as individuals in this profession and where the profession is as a whole. Many of us are proud to work as veterinarians, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have individual concerns, such as work-life balance, the challenges of running a business, or finding the time for self-improvement.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see the solutions to these issues, but it’s essential that we work toward our individual goals, and professionally, that we contribute to and take pride in something larger. However, when recent press reports document that pet visits to veterinarians are on the decline and that recent graduates are saddled with huge debt loads, it can be easy to be pessimistic and believe that our own personal “golden age”—and that of the profession—is far from reach.
Just 2 to 3 decades ago there was a great deal of freedom to focus on helping owners care for their pets, loans for education were available at very low rates, and veterinarians enjoyed a very positive and admirable status in the minds of the general public. Today, in the age of easy internet access, TV veterinary reality shows, and economic downturns, our owners have become clients and our clients demand the utmost from us at a cut-rate price. Is this simply the way the world has turned, with every business profession affected in the same manner? Should we be concerned or just adapt to the new pressures and move forward?
To help us with this we can look to our contemporaries for their perceptions of our societal role. A recent study of human health care students found that although there was widespread misunderstanding of the education necessary to become a veterinarian, there was overwhelming respect for the veterinary profession and majority agreement that the profession’s central role is in maintaining the human-animal bond.¹ Many of us may forget this from time to time, but this distinct, remarkable purpose is the one motivational objective that propelled us in the past and it should continue to drive us forward.
When we get together at VMX, we can take time to focus on what it’s like to be part of this exceptional profession, our essential involvement in the human-animal bond, and hopefully realize that every era of veterinary medicine is indeed a golden age. Every day, we have unique opportunities to make meaningful contributions to enrich the lives of animals and fellow human beings, despite all the challenges and concerns that we address in our daily lives and the state of the world around us.
“Is it not time to awake from the deceitful dream of a golden age…”
— Alexander Hamilton
- Englar RE, Show-Ridgway A, Noah DL, Appelt E, Kosinski R. Perceptions of the veterinary profession among human health care students before an inter-professional education course at midwestern university. J Vet Med Educ. 2018;45(3):423-436